Back story: Extras is the fourth book in the Uglies trilogy, which covers the adventures of Tally, initially an ordinary teen in a future where people came within a hairs' breadth of destruction. Over the course of the three books Tally's perceptions of her world, and the assumptions she realises she's made, cause her to take action and change the way her world functions. Now read on...
It’s been three years since rebel Tally Youngblood unleashed the mind-rain and stopped the world being bubble-headed. For Aya Fuse, who lives in a city where your status is everything, being fifteen and ranked in the 451 thousands (out of a population of a million) means nothing is that different. Sure there are now any number of cliques, from the cult of Radical Honesty (followers have surge to prevent them lying), to surge monkeys and tech heads. But Aya wants to be a kicker like her brother Hiro, reporting the latest news and raising her own rank in the process. Hiro’s huge, with a rank in the top thousand, and she knows she can’t compete. At least, not until she catches a group of low profile girls surfing on a mag-lev train. That’d be a rank-building kick, but in following it Aya uncovers something truly brain-shifting.
Extras is set in Japan, and Westerfeld manages to give the reader a flavour of not only the future (with realistic slang) but one where the worldwide change in society is shaped by the history and traditions of a very different culture that the Western one Tally experienced. He blends today’s reality-TV focus with technological advances, plastic surgery (surge), obsession with fame, the concept of ‘face’ and of service to the community to create a wholly original society.
This is the fourth in the Uglies trilogy, and as in the Tally novels (and indeed in all his books) Westerfeld’s managed to create a cohesive and compelling world that, though singularly different in many respects to our own, holds a mirror to us. His protagonists, particularly Aya, are convincing and the plot rattles along at lightening pace.
I was most distressed to discover that I’d left my copy on the tram last week, only half way through – God bless the library, which got me another copy within two days so I could pick straight back where I left off. – Alex
NB For a more articulate, insightful and comprehensive review of the series, click here for the New York Times review by James Hynes